12 Percent Tax Increase Part of 2023 Missoula City Budget
Residents will be facing a nearly 12 percent tax increase as part of the new Fiscal Year 2023 City of Missoula Budget.
We spoke with acting Mayor Gwen Jones on Wednesday and she provided details about the new budget.
“We had a nine-hour budget hearing Monday night, which was pretty long, but we ultimately got it done,” began Jones. “The focus of the budget this year? Well, there are several things to it. We have revenue issues, of course, and because we have revenue issues based on our taxation system, we've got a structural deficit, which you do not want to have. You don't want to have a gap there in terms of your revenues and your expenses. First of all, to address the revenue we had to raise taxes close to 12 percent, which is a really big jump and it's not a fun job to do that. However, in order to cover the gap and get to a better place, we did that.”
Jones said due to the fact that the city did not raise taxes during the recent COVID years, many needs and services had to be addressed in the 2023 budget.
“On the expense side, what we've really looked at this year, we're always looking for areas in which we can save,” she said. “But we also think it is very important to provide a certain level of service, which means if you call the police, they come within a certain amount of time. If your house is on fire or you're in a car accident and the fire (department) needs to come, they're going to be able to be there within a certain amount of time. And that's all very important. You don't want to start backsliding and not meeting those levels of service because frankly, it's not good for the community.”
One of the possible repercussions of not providing city services such as fire response within a certain time period, Jones said could result in an increase in fire insurance for the city.
Jones said as a city resident and taxpayer for over 30 years, she fervently wished that there could be a way to distribute the tax burden to more than just property taxpayers, and that would require some outside economic expertise.
“Our economy has changed and our taxation system needs to reflect that,” she said. “If I could have a wish granted, I would wish that one of the interim committees of the legislature would put some money towards hiring one or two economists to analyze our budgets, analyze the tax base, see where the money's at, come up with some proposals as to how to more equitably figure out how to pull our revenue from different areas and see what they say.”
Regarding the search for a new mayor, Jones provided an update on the procedure currently underway to replace the late John Engen.
“September 7, we actually do the interviews in chambers,” she said. “Two weeks prior on that Monday we nominate people and then September 7, we interview, and then September 12, we vote, and then we will swear in a new mayor soon after that. So I am I am the acting mayor. I'm just here for a few short weeks, but my focus is on making sure that the process runs smoothly, and that we get someone who is able to step in smoothly because it's a big job.”
Click here to see the new Fiscal Year 2023 Missoula City Budget.